Galatians Chapter 2:6-10
6ἀπὸ δὲ τῶν δοκούντων εἶναί τι ὁποῖοί ποτε ἦσαν οὐδέν μοι διαφέρει: πρόσωπον [ὁ] θεὸς ἀνθρώπου οὐ λαμβάνει ἐμοὶ γὰρ οἱ δοκοῦντες οὐδὲν προσανέθεντο,
From the ones seeiming to be something—of what sort they were then, it didn’t matter to me: God does not take the face of a man—for those appearing added nothing to me.
Idiomatic: From the ones appearing to be something special—what they actually were didn’t matter, because God doesn’t choose people based on a pleasing face (good looks; pleasing exterior)—these ones appearing to be something added nothing to my message. (they had no influence on me, even though they seemed to be so important).
IOW, Paul stood firm against being influenced, or cowed, by these guys who thought they were big shots in the Jesus community. And remember: some of them had probably known Jesus, whereas Paul had not. Takes a certain type of fortitude. Or pigheadedness. And the term one chooses pretty much depends on whether one agrees with the position or not. Think of Martin Luther’s words before the Council of Worms: “Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anders. Gott helfe mir.”
The Greek in this sentence is pretty tough; given the lack of punctuation, it’s often hard to pick up when something has been inserted parenthetically, as it has been here.
6 Ab his autem, qui videbantur esse aliquid — quales aliquando fuerint, nihil mea interest; Deus personam hominis non accipit — mihi enim, qui observabantur, nihil contulerunt,
7ἀλλὰ τοὐναντίον ἰδόντες ὅτι πεπίστευμαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς ἀκροβυστίας καθὼς Πέτρος τῆς περιτομῆς,
On the contrary, seeing that we have been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, accordingly as Peter (has been entrusted with the gospel) to the circumcised.
But entrusted by whom? God, presumably.
7 sed e contra, cum vidissent quod creditum est mihi evangelium praeputii, sicut Petro circumcisionis
8ὁ γὰρ ἐνεργήσας Πέτρῳ εἰς ἀποστολὴν τῆς περιτομῆς ἐνήργησεν καὶ ἐμοὶ εἰς τὰ ἔθνη,
For the task to Peter (was) towards (to be) the apostle to the circumcised, and (so) to me the task (to be the apostle to) the peoples/gentiles.
Sort of a division of labor. On the one hand, it seems that Paul is making it sound as if some sort of formal decision was made; OTOH, one senses that the reality is that the James Gang simply bowed to and accepted what was, in fact, something of a fait accompli carried out by Paul.
Now, this is significant. It demonstrates pretty effectively, and—IMO—conclusively that Paul was a bit of a loose canon. He got his own commission—his own mission—from God, and struck out on his own, pretty much disregarding what the James Gang in Jerusalem thought about the matter. This is huge, because, by any stretch, Peter and James were the ‘rightful’ heirs of Jesus message. Paul here is pretty much corroborating the gospel accounts that Peter was part of Jesus’ innermost circle. And, certainly, James, as the brother of Jesus, could, by any reasonable standard, claim to have some sort of authority to represent Jesus once the latter was dead. James has been called the caliph by some modern authors, the relative who had the divine designation to perpetuate the message of the Master.
That Paul, more or less, circumvented—at the least—or usurped—at the most—the authority that should have belonged to Peter or James is a huge development. Why did they, however grudgingly as it might have been, accept this usurpation?
One answer is that, a generation out Paul had been very successful in creating lots of followers of Jesus in lots of Gentile communities. That is, the weight of numbers was on Paul’s side. The Jews resisted Jesus; the Gentiles were more open to the idea of a new prophet coming at the end of a very long tradition. RL Fox, in Pagans and Christians, describes other such pagan prophets, wise men, sages, who were active in the first 1-2 centuries CE. That is, they were pagan versions of Jesus, who stood at the end of a very old pagan tradition, just as Jesus stood at the end of a very old Jewish tradition. The Jews, perhaps, seemed not so willing to accept this change of course; the pagans didn’t particularly mind.
8 — qui enim operatus est Petro in apostolatum circumcisionis, operatus est et mihi inter gentes —
9καὶ γνόντες τὴν χάριν τὴν δοθεῖσάν μοι, Ἰάκωβος καὶ Κηφᾶς καὶ Ἰωάννης, οἱ δοκοῦντες στῦλοι εἶναι, δεξιὰς ἔδωκαν ἐμοὶ καὶ Βαρναβᾷ κοινωνίας, ἵνα ἡμεῖς εἰς τὰ ἔθνη, αὐτοὶ δὲ εἰς τὴν περιτομήν:
And knowing the grace given to me, James and Cephas and John, those seeming to be the pillars, they gave to me their right hand and Barnabas in common ( = together with Barnabas), so that we (should/could go) to the peoples, while (= δὲ) they themselves (went) to the circumcised.
James, Peter, and John, appeared to be the pillars. Interesting for several reasons: first, the names. Given the reference in 1:19, the logical inference is that this is James, the brother of Jesus. Which leads to the second point: the order in which the names are given. James is given precedence, and this will matter below, in 2:12. Again, as the gospels don’t even specifically state that James the Lesser is the brother of Jesus, it’s a bit surprising to see him as the leading figure.
Cephas and John, OTOH, are perfectly non-surprising. We are used to thinking of them as leaders among the apostles. Perhaps not so much John during Jesus’ lifetime, but certainly as the author of the fourth gospel, and the attributed author of Apocalypse.
Finally, note that Paul states that they appeared to be the Pillars—of the community more or less understood. Why did they only seem to be? Why doesn’t he state definitively that they were the pillars? Simple jealousy? These men had known Jesus, and Paul hadn’t? Or perhaps ignorance? Perhaps he simply was not really knowledgeable about the workings of the Jerusalem assembly. He hadn’t spent much time there; he hadn’t been there in 14 years.
Note: The NIV renders this as “those esteemed pillars.” That really changes the meaning. The Revised English Bible gives this as “those recognized as pillars,” which is also an entirely different sense from ‘seemed to be.’
Finally, they gave Paul their right hands, in friendship, in blessing. They shook hands on the deal. They understood that Paul was divinely appointed (the grace given him, as Paul put it) to be the apostle to the Gentiles.
A word about the Greek. As is so often the case, the Greek omits the verb for “to go” in both of the last two clauses. In the second clause, it doesn’t make a lot of difference. In the first: “that we (go) to the peoples,” it matters in the sense that we are expecting something like the subjunctive rather than the Present Indicative Active. Perhaps a minor point, but it may indicate he felt confident that he could get away with it, or didn’t quite know what he was doing.
9 et cum cognovissent gratiam, quae data est mihi, Iacobus et Cephas et Ioannes, qui videbantur columnae esse, dexteras dederunt mihi et Barnabae communionis, ut nos in gentes, ipsi autem in circumcisionem;
10μόνον τῶν πτωχῶν ἵνα μνημονεύωμεν, ὃ καὶ ἐσπούδασα αὐτὸ τοῦτο ποιῆσαι.
Alone of the poor in order that we remember, which also I was diligent/eager to do the very thing.
Updated: (We were enjoined) only/solely to remember the poor, of which thing I was diligent/eager to do.
Per the comments, I’ve revised the translation for the sake of clarity.
Some have taken ‘the poor’ here to refer to the Ebionites. This was yet another sect of Jesus followers, who held some kind of vow of poverty. Some have gone so far as to posit that James, brother of Jesus, was the leader of the group. Given that James was a pillar of the Jerusalem assembly, this seems a bit odd.
Rather, this more likely refers to the Temple Tax that all Jews were required to pay to the temple.
10 tantum ut pauperum memores essemus, quod etiam sollicitus fui hoc ipsum facere.
Posted on September 16, 2012, in epistles, Galatians, Paul's Letters and tagged Bible, Bible commentary, commenting, epistles, Galatians, New Testament, St Paul, theology. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.